Women’s soccer coach leaves Yale amid allegations of misconduct
Women’s soccer coach Brendan Faherty left Yale Athletics on Wednesday amid allegations of impropriety with his former players at the University of New Haven: one of sexual misconduct and another of a consensual sexual relationship.
A career women’s soccer coach, Faherty was Yale Athletic Director Vicky Chun’s first hire. He came to Yale from Stony Brook University in December to replace Rudy Meredith, who resigned one month prior and later accepted a plea deal for his part in the Varsity Blues admissions scandal. In a public statement at the time of Faherty’s appointment, Chun said that “the respect and love from [Faherty’s] former student-athletes … made him the clear choice” and that his “core values align perfectly with those of [the] university and [athletics] department.”
But according to interviews with seven women who played for Faherty at UNH between 2003 and 2009, the coach had a history of abusing his position. Five individuals close to the matter, including the alleged victim herself, said that Faherty demanded a former player sleep in his bed and groped her breasts in January 2009. Another former player recalled a consensual, intimate physical relationship she shared with her coach while she was a player and for several years thereafter. Neither of these players was under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged incidents.
In addition to these allegations, several former players, speaking on condition of anonymity due to fear of retribution, community ties and privacy concerns, described a culture of impropriety on Faherty’s team. Three former players told the News that they drank with the coach while they were players, and three others — who did not drink with Faherty themselves — confirmed that the coach frequently met with players at bars. Several of these players noted that Faherty was close in age to his players. He began coaching at the age of 24.
The News first informed University officials of these allegations on Monday following an independent investigation. On Wednesday, Vice President for Communications Nate Nickerson told the News that Faherty is no longer a Yale employee.
“Yale hired women’s head soccer coach Brendan Faherty in December of 2018, following the background check and careful review of previous employment conducted in every such hiring,” Nickerson wrote in a statement. “None of the information shared by the Yale Daily News on Monday, which is deeply troubling, was made known in the interview and vetting process.”
Nickerson explained that he cannot discuss specific personnel actions but confirmed that athletics leadership had conversations with Faherty about the allegations after learning of them on Monday. According to the Yale Athletics website, assistant coaches Sarah Martinez and Sade Ayinde will lead the program until a new head coach is chosen.
Faherty did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the allegations concerning his conduct at UNH and his departure from Yale. UNH Vice President of Marketing and Communications Lyn Chamberlin also did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement to the News, Chun said the University will provide resources and support to women’s soccer players, who are left without a coach following their season for two consecutive years.
“We know change is hard, but also know the strength and resiliency of our women’s soccer team will shine through this difficult time,” Chun wrote. “Our student athletes are at the center of our decisions, and we know this is the right path forward.”
The National College Athletics Association has not explicitly prohibited romantic relationships between coaches and players but considers “any sexual contact between a coach and an athlete abusive” given inherent power dynamics that render the concept of “mutual consent” problematic. As such, the organization in 2012 issued a report instructing member institutions to “unambiguously and effectively prohibit such relationships to ensure that sport programs offer a safe and empowering experience for all student-athletes.”
This report — called Staying in Bounds — outlines a model policy for university regulation but does not require schools to adopt such prohibitions. For its part, Yale explicitly prohibits sexual or amorous relationships between coaches and student-athletes. UNH officials did not respond to requests for comment regarding their policy.
“I didn’t feel comfortable contradicting him”
The alleged groping occurred following a concert in New York City which the alleged victim — who will be referred to as Jane — Faherty, and two other players attended in January 2009, shortly after Jane’s senior season ended, she told the News. Jane noted that she, Faherty and the pair of players went separately but met after the concert and visited several bars over the course of the evening. This, Jane said, marked the first time she and Faherty had spent time together outside of traditional team activities.
The coach later offered to drive the three players home to New Haven, Jane told the News. She took him up on the offer, she said, because she thought it would be safer than taking the train back alone.
The car ride, Jane continued, quickly became “terrifying.” Faherty, she told the News, swerved between lanes and was clearly too drunk to be driving. One of the other players confirmed Faherty’s intoxication and told the News that he abruptly stopped in order to avoid a crash. Jane’s UNH dorm would have been his logical first stop, the alleged victim said, but Faherty passed her exit. When she questioned the decision, Jane added, he assured her that he would drop her off later.
The News confirmed the alleged victim’s account of the car ride with the other two players in the car and well as a third player, who heard about the drive shortly after it occurred. Both individuals in the car spoke with the News on the condition of anonymity — one citing fear of retribution and concern for her job and the other saying that she was uncomfortable with the premise of the News’ investigation. Outside of visiting bars after the concert and driving home with Faherty, the latter player said she was unaware of the coach interacting with players outside of team activities. A photo from the night in question — the origin of which all three players confirmed — depicts the trio in the back of Faherty’s car.
After Faherty let the other two players out at their off-campus apartment, he told Jane that he did not want to make the drive back to UNH, Jane said. When Jane asked to be let out with the other players, she said, Faherty rejected her request and insisted that she spend the night with him at his home.
After arriving at Faherty’s home, Jane asked to sleep on the couch, but the coach demanded that she join him in his bed, she told the News. She added that she was unable to call a taxi or walk home given that her phone was out of battery and the ground covered in snow.
“[He] was insistent in a way that I didn’t feel comfortable contradicting him,” Jane later recalled. “So I was laying in his bed — stiff as a board, on the very edge — trying not to initiate any kind of contact, and he starts groping me underneath my shirt [and] commenting about my breasts.”
Jane told the News that after Faherty fell asleep, she moved to the couch, charged her phone, called a taxi and went home. Immediately following the alleged incident, Jane confided in her then-roommate, who did not play for Faherty, as well as another former player. In interviews with the News, both individuals confirmed that Jane told them about the alleged incident at the time. Her then-roommate told the News that she does not remember Jane mentioning groping specifically, but does remember Jane saying she refused Faherty’s advances.
Jane said she recounted the incident to another former player a few months later and to her then-boyfriend a year after the fact. In interviews with the News, both confirmed that Jane told them the account as detailed above, but the former player did not remember Jane mentioning groping specifically.
Jane did not file a formal complaint with the university in order to avoid continued interaction with Faherty and because she did not want to be remembered for the complaint given her other accomplishments at the school. Despite Faherty’s attempts at conversation in the months following the incident and leading up to her graduation, Jane resolved never to speak to him, she said.
In 2013, four years after the alleged incident, Jane received a Facebook message from Faherty — which she provided to the News — inquiring about photos for a gift book he was compiling for another player. The message began with an apology.
“Long, long, time no talk and I’ve been meaning to reach out for a long time to say I’m sorry for the way things ended at New Haven for you in regards to soccer and with me,” Faherty wrote. “If I could go back and do things differently, I would, but all I could do was move on and be a better person and coach in the future.”
It remains unclear to which specific incidents Faherty was referencing in this message, and the coach did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding the matter. Still, Jane interpreted the message as an apology for the groping recounted above.
She added that — after years of no contact — she received but did not return multiple phone calls from Faherty in the past month after she began speaking with the News. Faherty’s intention behind these calls remains unclear and he did not respond to the News’ inquiries regarding the matter.
“I had a secret life I was unable to speak about”
The player who told the News that she was intimately involved with Faherty for a number of years — who will be referred to as Liz — said that the pair often exchanged flirtatious messages and had sexual encounters while she was still a player on his team and for several years after her graduation. The News corroborated her account in interviews with other players and individuals in whom she confided at the time, as well as with messages exchanged after she left UNH. Faherty, Liz said, told her to delete their written correspondence from the years during which she played for him.
During Liz’s second season at UNH, she told the News, she entered a romantic relationship with Faherty that was marked by “mutual feelings.” Faherty, she said, would send her messages about soccer and then move the conversation to more personal matters, including telling her that he loved her.
That relationship became sexual after the season ended, Liz continued, and persisted throughout and after her time at UNH. Liz emphasized that Faherty initiated the vast majority of their sexual interactions, most of which were outside of the official season but some of which occurred during regular soccer months. Faherty, she said, explained that the two could not be together while he was officially her coach, referring to the regular season. However, Liz added, Faherty would backtrack as the weeks wore on, initiating sexual encounters during that period.
The coach, she said, often asked her to meet him secretly — their interactions, she said, were “on his terms” due to fear that he could lose his job and ruin his reputation if word got out. While she did not object to Faherty’s advances at the time, she told the News that she now feels “exploited.” Faherty would “[get] what he wanted” and then disappear for days or weeks, she recalled.
“It was consensual in that it was not forced,” Liz said in an interview with the News. “I do, however, remember feeling kind of frozen, like I couldn’t believe it was actually happening … He had been a trusted adult in my life and he was older than me, so it seemed surreal that he would even have an interest in me in that way.
“It devastated me … I became more isolated and depressed — I had a secret life I was unable to speak about,” she continued. “As a young woman barely into my twenties, this was horrible and pretty unhealthy.”
While Liz initially thought the two had affection for each other, she said she eventually felt used and doubted her self-worth — she often left encounters with Faherty in tears, she told the News.
By the time Liz graduated, she said, Faherty was only interested in sex and discounted the mutual feelings she thought the two shared at the beginning of their involvement — an involvement that became a taboo subject, caused rifts on the team and led her to feel isolated, she said. Liz noted that Faherty pursued her for several years after her graduation despite her attempts to distance herself.
“Can I share a sexual image with you that i don’t think ill [sic] ever get out of my head?” Faherty messaged in Nov. 2009, after Liz graduated. Liz said that Faherty never sent an obscene picture — she interpreted the “sexual image” to be a mental image of their encounters while she was a player. She told the News that Faherty often commented on her outfits and asked her what she was wearing. Also that November, Faherty messaged, “jeans … show off your ass.”
A teammate, close family member and friend — all of whom chose to remain anonymous for fear of retribution and to avoid exposing Liz’s identity — confirmed that, at the time, the former player confided in them about having sex with Faherty and that her involvement with the coach spanned several years.
Faherty repeatedly reached out to Liz after the News launched its investigation. It remains unclear why he attempted to contact her, and Faherty did not respond to requests for comment on the matter. However, Faherty specifically referenced the investigation in one of his messages, which Liz provided to the News.
After her alleged relationship with Faherty, Liz quit soccer altogether. He had “ruined” the sport for her and her mental health suffered, she said. In recent years, Liz continued, she has had a recurring dream — that she returns to the sport that once meant everything to her.
“I get to go back for one more year and play with all my teammates again — but the thing is, he’s not there, he’s not the coach,” she said. “In my dream, it’s the time of my life again. [My experience with Faherty has] been a huge stain on my life.”
Mackenzie Hawkins | firstname.lastname@example.org